Afternoon Jolt

Friday Jolt: Inslee Vetoes Bipartisan Bill Regulating Government Drones

Today's Loser: Privacy.

By Afternoon Jolt April 4, 2014

Afternoon Jolt

Just because it was our April 1 Morning Fizz doesn't mean we were kidding when we reported earlier this week that Gov. Jay Inslee was considering vetoing a bipartisan bill (it passed 77-21 in the House and 46-1 in the Senate this year) regulating government use of drones.

Learn to trust the Fizz: Today, Inslee vetoed the ACLU-backed bill, on which liberals and Tea Partiers joined forces earlier this year, to place warrant requirements on the use of personal info scooped up by government drones.

In his letter, Inslee cited two basic reasons for his veto.

First, he believed the bill—which mandated the destruction of personal info unrelated to criminal activity recorded by drones—jeopardized public disclosure. He writes: "This could lead to shielding government use of this technology from public disclosure."

Second, Inslee believed the bill's definition of personal information was too "expansive" and would "make it impossible to use this technology."

Inslee did say, however, that he shared the public's concerns about privacy, and he coupled his veto with a 15-month moratorium on the purchase and use of drones while he convenes a task force (that includes the ACLU) to come up with compromise legislation for the 2015 legislative session.

Rep. Jeff Morris (D-40, San Juan County), a co-sponsor on the bill and chair of the house technology committee, released the following statement today:

I am very disappointed that Governor Inslee vetoed this well-worked, forward-looking legislation that was intended to protect citizens from being spied on by their government without legal approval.
The measure passed both the House and the Senate with strong bipartisan support. It specifically permitted the use of drones for forest-fire surveillance, wildlife management, military training, and emergencies proclaimed by the governor, and it allowed development of the technology to continue.
It’s unfortunate that it’s so difficult to override a veto once regular session has ended. But I will continue working to ensure that we control technology – technology doesn’t control us.

An ACLU statement says Inslee's moratorium isn't meaningful because it allows acquisition of drones for emergency purposes, but includes no rules for their use after acquisition and does not bind local agencies at all (the drone controversy hit Seattle last year when the SPD bought two drones without council approval).

ACLU lobbyist Shankar Narayan tells PubliCola: "The Governor’s moratorium has no legal impact on either state agencies or local [communities], and shows exactly why we needed the bill in the first place—to have rules around procurement and use of drones, and clear standards for what uses are allowed and what are not."



Show Comments